Indian media: Worry over economic gloom

An Indian walks past a sand sculpture of a rupee coin on a beach in Puri, India, on 22 August
Image caption The rupee's poor performance against the US dollar is affecting business sentiments in India

Media and experts are concerned over the continuing gloom in the Indian economy amid questions over the financial feasibility of the Food Security Bill.

The rupee hit a record low of 68.5 against the US dollar on Wednesday amid heightened negative sentiment among traders and business leaders.

"There are lots of expectations on the fiscal side that something might happen and markets are waiting for some announcements. It's been pretty nice talk so far, but no implementation," financial analyst Jayesh Mehta told the NDTV Profit website.

Newspapers and experts believe the currency has taken a further hit due to the Food Security Bill which aims to provide subsidised food to two-thirds of the population.

The Hindustan Times feels the bill would "worsen a ballooning fiscal deficit" and this will put more pressure on the struggling rupee.

"Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that the cost of food security will not result in fiscal deficits above the redline of 4.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP). But if the current weaknesses persist, things may not be the same in the coming years.

"Therefore, there is a strong case for pitching for reforms and growth - it is the poor of India who needs them more. Welfare and growth must feed into each other rather than be pitched as contradictory demands," the paper adds.

The Deccan Herald too feels that the food scheme "can severely impact on India's economic growth prospects".

In international news, India on Tuesday summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest against the detention of its oil tanker for over two weeks, The Times of India reports.

"Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh summoned Iranian ambassador Gholamreza Ansari and demanded early release of the tanker which has been detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps since 12 August," the paper adds.

No compromise

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has said that a "compromise" deal between a rape victim and the accused or convict cannot be taken as a factor to reduce punishment for the crime, The Hindu reports.

"Rape is a non-compoundable offence and it is an offence against society, and is not a matter to be left for the parties to compromise and settle. Since the court cannot always be assured that the consent given by the victim… is a genuine consent, there is every chance that she might have been pressurised by the convicts or the trauma undergone by her all the years might have compelled her to opt for a compromise," the paper quoted one of the judges as saying during the hearing of a case.

Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament has passed a bill allowing people in jail to contest elections, opposing an earlier Supreme Court verdict in this matter.

Terming the court's judgement "clearly erroneous", Law Minister Kapil Sibal said "courts are enthusiastic to prove politicians as criminals" and asked the judiciary to be "extremely careful in giving rulings which have an impact on the polity of the country", the India Today website reports.

In some good news for music lovers, a flute festival bringing together musicians from India and abroad is to begin on Wednesday in Delhi, The Times of India reports.

And finally, a fashion brand in the southern state of Kerala has launched what it calls "denim purdah (veil)", in a bid to attract "young" and "fashionable" Muslim women, reports The Indian Express.

Kozhikode-based firm Hoorulyn says the product was launched during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and has received an "encouraging" response, it adds.

However, opinion seems to be split over the new launch.

While women's rights groups say it will "boost the confidence" of Muslim girls, some writers feel it deviates from the purpose of the purdah and will "attract more attention", the paper says.

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